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Zimbabwe Power-Sharing Panel Quizzes Ministers on Missing MDC Activists

Fifteen activists of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai taken into custody late last year by police remain missing despite recent inquiries by the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee established to resolve outstanding issues following the formation of Zimbabwe's national unity government last month.

The monitoring committee, known as JOMIC, recently summoned the two ministers who share control of the Home Affairs Ministry to inquire into the whereabouts of the activists, who were accused of plotting to overthrow the former government of President Robert Mugabe but apparently have never been formally charged with any crime by the authorities.

The release of political prisoners was among the issues not yet resolved last month when the unity government was finally constituted on Feb. 13, five months after the signature of the power-sharing agreement providing for such collaboration by the two formations of the MDC and President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF after disputed elections in March-June 2008.

High-profile prisoners such as Zimbabwe Peace Project Director Jestina Mukoko, abducted by state security agents in December 2008 and later produced by police, and Tsvangirai MDC Treasurer Roy Bennett, named deputy agriculture minister, been released on bail. But a number of less-known MDC activists and a photo-journalist remain behind bars.

The Home Affairs co-ministers, Kembo Mohadi of ZANU-PF and Giles Mutsekwa of the Tsvangirai MDC formation were unable to account for the whereabouts and disposition of the activists, according to sources familiar with the JOMIC proceedings last week.

However, of 18 activists described as “missing,” three were released by police following the JOMIC meeting with the two ministers, the sources said.

Police are said to have told the Home Affairs ministers they had been holding the three men in protective custody, but denied any knowledge of the other 15 activists.

Economic Planning and Investment Promotion Minister Elton Mangoma of the Tsvangirai MDC formation, chairman of the JOMIC panel this month, told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the committee is panel is making every effort to find the missing activists.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...